Everything You (N)Ever Wanted to Know about Colon Hydrotherapy
"It's about as uncomfortable as seeing the gyno."
If you can believe it, this is the phrase that convinced me that I should get a colonic. It's not that I like revealing myself to a woman I see only once a year, when she slips a cold metal contraption into my person and goes in with a glorified Q-Tip. But that's life, huh?
So when it came to the practice of sticking a small tube into my butt, flushing water into my innards, and letting internal materials flood out like a waterslide, I thought, “Why not?”
Maybe this seems farfetched in your community, but in New York, you could explain to a friend that your Reiki healer was told by his Shaman that, based on your astrology chart, an Ayahuasca ceremony is far more effective if you cut back on the organic matcha almond-milk lattes you’ve been consuming with your vegan, gluten-free diet, without them batting an eye. Almost every quasi-bourgie, moderately crunchy New Yorker has at least contemplated a colon-cleansing procedure. I am both of those things and I’d been considering it for years.
To be honest, I've been too afraid to get a colonic until now. The mixed reviews, potential for disaster, and tug-of-war over whether or not colonics even have real benefits had kept me at bay. But many brave friends--people I trust--have gone before me.
Sure, they said it was “a little uncomfortable.” But so is wearing 3-inch heels, having blood drawn, and going to the dentist. Each of my colon-flushing friends said they felt amazing when it was all said and done, and that’s more than I can say for wearing pumps in Manhattan. Maybe colonics are truly beneficial, or maybe they solely exist to embarrass people. I thought, if nothing else, perhaps I’d feel a bit lighter in my jeans. Ultimately, though, the curiosity was killing me.
I didn't want to go alone. I needed a confidante, a sidekick to take this leap with me, someone willing to have yesterday's leftovers coaxed from their body by an FDA-approved colon hydrotherapy machine and a fresh-faced woman named Melissa at the other end of it. "Let me know how it goes!" said the C-Word virgins in my life. I asked my husband to join me one night in bed. Face to face, we lie on our pillows. “Wanna get a colonic with me? I know you’re curious,” I said. He grumbled. “Don’t you want to know what it’s like?!” He did not.
Finally, a friend of mine who suffers from a laundry list of ailments agreed to jump off the colonic cliff with me, cheek to cheek, as it were. It won’t make us blood brothers, but as far as bonds go, it should make us something.
We arrived at SanaVita Center for Holistic Cleansing on Saturday morning, 20 minutes early to fill out a few forms. I informed them of my daily habits ("How often do you consume alcohol? Never, Rarely, Occasionally, Often") After poring over whether or not my stress level sits comfortably at a 7.5 or an 8, I turned in my form and waited anxiously.
Initially my primary issue had been with the insertion of a plastic tube in my butt. I'll just put it out there: I'm just not much of a butt person. Soon, though, I'd learn that the butt stuff was the least of my concerns.
Melissa called me into my private room. She was cute, warm and friendly, wearing thick black-frame glasses and a mess of hair atop her head. The room was clean and cozy, with hooks for my coat and purse. The windows were covered in a stained-glass decal, a detail I’d come to appreciate during the insertion process. On the wall hung an illustrated diagram of the colon, large intestine, and liver. Beneath it--to the right of the medical examiner's table--was the Dotolo Colonic machine.
According to their website, this machine "is the most efficient and complete filtration system available in the industry." As for Melissa, she is certified by the International Association of Colon Therapists, the only recognized regulatory agency in the industry. They also had 4 ½ out of 5 stars on Yelp. Works for me.
Not that these certifications further clarify the effectiveness of a colonic, but I appreciated the preemptive nature of their FAQ page. Also, I thought I should explain this in case you have the guffawing reaction my mother did, asking "Where did I find this place?!" and "Was it done by a professional?!" as if I'm the kind of person who casually approaches a junkies in back alleys to request invasive procedures.
For the first five minutes or so, Melissa explains the process, walks me through the maze of my intestines and describes what I may feel. I roll onto my side.
Once the tube is nestled inside my rectum as comfortably as one can keep anything nestled inside their rectum, Melissa asks me to roll onto my back with my feet flat and knees up. The first step involves “flushing the water around to acclimate the body.” During this time Melissa and I chat. She tells me that she is an artist. “That’s my main thing,” she explains, though she’s been working in the colon biz for about a decade.
You may be wondering, How does a sweet, young girl end up sucking waste from a stranger’s body for money? Melissa tells me she became very ill several years ago. Diverticulitis. It was bad. She was rushed to the hospital, where they removed a portion of her colon. After that, her direction was clear. Except for the art stuff; that’s her main path. Colons: B path.
Then Melissa explains that she’s going to start the “filling process.” Typically, she said, they begin with one cup of water, let it sit in the colon for about 30 seconds--if you can handle it--and then “release.” My friends were right; it’s a sensation I’ve never felt before, water slowly filling my insides, cresting against my intestinal walls like the foamy waves of an ocean. But probably more like the babbling stream of a sewage.
This is when the real discomfort begins. I start to laugh, because I laugh when I’m uncomfortable.
“I don’t want to laugh too much because I don’t want my tube to come out,” I tell Melissa, fearful that I’ll giggle hard enough to pass the tube along with a watery rinse of poo. “Don’t worry. That won’t happen,” she kindly assures me. “Your sphincter muscles would contract to keep the tube inside.”
“How are you feeling?” she asks. “Good,” I say between deep breaths. “I’m just sort of afraid I’m going to poop all over this table.” She smiles. “You won’t, I promise. Everyone feels that way. When the pressure gets to be too much, we’ll release.”
She reminds me to breath deep breaths into my lower belly, as if I have the space of an empty brownstone down there to compete with my water-balloon of a colon. Then, The Release.
To you, all this talk of intestinal cleansing may sound repulsive. But to someone like me, someone who can’t resist picking at a pimple, this experience was fascinating. The first release flushes out the newbies, the most recent digestive victims: Raw, organic green juice from four hours prior, maybe a few partially digested cured meats from a dinner party the night before. (Broke the “colonic prep” rules with that one.)
Melissa massages my intestines as the flushing continues, kneading my midsection with her hands to work out gas bubbles and to break up impacted areas that may have been stubborn culprits on my general wellness.
“Your muscles are very strong,” she tells me. I imagine that all these years my intestines have been competing in their very own CrossFit games, and I respond as if I’m impressed and thankful be the proud owner of an athletic digestive system. Towards the end of the first flush, I feel great. Relieved. Melissa and I are chatting again, just like old pals.
I have two to three more fills--and releases. During each fill, I’d have moments in which I felt certain my bowels would betray me. Mild discomfort, relief, repeat. Through a glass screen I watched the waste from my insides idle by: earthy shades of sediment and what Melissa explained were “pieces of plaque that have been in there for a quite some time.” She continued to massage my bowels, placing a hot stone in the areas of discomfort. At one point she even used the phrase “colonic of the month.”
All I do is win?
When it was all said and done, my friends were right. I felt great. I went into my private bathroom, where Melissa suggested I should take a moment, in case things were to shift upon standing upright. Did I feel miraculous? Otherworldly? Nah. But it was the psychological reset that I needed this spring. Even if the colonic did nothing but rob me of my money, my body felt good, fresh, renewed. It was a reminder that, if I were to lose sight of my wellness goals, I could think back to the time that I’d allowed a stranger to stick a foreign object up my butt for the sake of “cleansing.”
They requested that I come back every three months, which, if you ask me, is a little too frequent. Would I do it again? Maybe. Mostly I’m just happy I can cross it off my “List of Gross Things I’m Curious About.” I can confirm that yeah, it’s about as uncomfortable as getting a pap smear, and no, I didn’t poop on the table.
If nothing else, now I have a great story to tell my Reiki healer who will probably tell the Shaman and all the participants of his next Sound Bath.